Foam-Free DER: Series Introduction

The deep energy retrofit (DER) is essential to our low energy building future - as most all buildings that will exist (in our lifetime) do already exist.  The most authoritative DER guide for  the Northeast is the Mass Save Deep Energy Retrofit Builder Guide.  (the Guide)  Download the Guide here (pdf).

Produced by the Building Science Corporation,  the Guide is a very readable, condensed, yet expansive set of guidelines - for builders and architects who want to dramatically improve the performance of existing building enclosures, achieving installed R values of 60 at roofs, 40 at walls and 10 at the ground, and an airtightness of 1.5ACH50.  The Guide clearly lays out the logic of many important concepts, like long-term planning with incremental improvements, hazard remediation and careful consideration of unique building dynamics.

The Guide also relentlessly recommends foam (XPS, EPS, and closed cell spray foam) - and  leaves the distinct impression that "the answer" is foam, foam and more foam.  But if you're looking for non-foam based solutions - like us -  you'll likely be left scratching your head. Enter this blog series:  With it we want to illustrate and recommend foam-free approaches to many of the assemblies addressed in the Guide.   It is our contention that foam-free high performance deep energy retrofits can be higher performing and more sustainable strategies than foam based approaches.

The elevator version of our argument is this:  If you want to minimize the toxic impact on our environment and provide robust drying and airtight capabilities, then foam should not be your first choice.   We can do better. The series will have seven installments*:

  1. Foam-Free DER: Series Introduction
  2. Foam-Free DER: Roof Assemblies
  3. Foam-Free DER: Wall & Foundation Assemblies
  4. Foam-Free DER: Ground
  5. Foam-Free DER: Windows & Doors
  6. Foam-Free DER: Roof & Wall Connections
  7. Foam-Free DER: Miscellaneous Penetrations

* Number and sequence may vary as we work our way through the series.

Admittedly this is a work in progress and so we look forward to questions and comments as we elaborate and refine what can quickly become an overwhelming number of iterations.  As such we're starting on the white board - literally. We hope you find this exploration useful.

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